Revamp Tests to Help, Not Hurt, Study Says EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT TESTING

Article excerpt

TESTS given to students and workers in the United States should be changed to accommodate shifting demographics, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Commission on Testing and Public Policy.

The report calls for restructuring testing from preschool through employment in response to "a shrinking entry-level workforce increasingly composed of linguistic, racial, and ethnic minorities." These groups tend to perform poorly under current testing practices.

Entitled "From Gatekeeper to Gateway: Transforming Testing in America," the report says: "As the global economy becomes more competitive and interdependent, we will more than ever need the talents of all our people."

As the United States moves toward a more service-oriented economy, the country can no longer rely on a largely unskilled labor force, says the report.

In 1987, the commission began a three-year study of the role of testing in allocating opportunities. The group is an interdisciplinary body including experts in such areas as education, business, and labor, supported by the Ford Foundation.

"Testing has primarily been used to select people for limited opportunities," says George F. Madaus, an education teacher at Boston College and executive director of the study. "We're going to have many more opportunities than we're going to have people in the coming decades."

In order to promote individual talent, the report urges that equal importance be placed on investment in human resources as is currently given to other forms of capital. It recommends that accounting practices include investment in human resources along with nonhuman capital.

But not all experts agree. William Poole, a professor of economics at Brown University in Providence, R.I., views such a proposal as unnecessary. "If we continue to have economic growth ...," he says, "then there will be lots of opportunities. Private companies have a tremendous incentive to invest in their work force, and they do so where they think there will be some returns. …